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International Elimination of Racial Discrimination Day: 2014 Focuses on the Role of Leaders in Combatting Racism and Racial Discrimination

Thursday, March 20, 2014
By Brelan Hillman

In 2014, We Still Need Strong Leaders

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is held annually on March 21 for the dual purposes of reminding the world of racial discrimination’s destructive ramifications, while also prompting people to fulfill their duty to fight racism. The date was selected to commemorate the victims of the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, when South African police shot into a crowd of several thousand black protesters, killing sixty-nine activists who were peacefully demonstrating against the apartheid “Pass Laws” that aimed to propagate the segregation and oppression of blacks. Following this tragedy, in 1966, the United Nation’s General Assembly officially declared the Day, calling on the international community’s support to eradicate racism. In 1979, the General Assembly would implement an agenda to fight racism and racial discrimination, and established a week of solidarity for racially oppressed peoples beginning on March 21. 

There is a different theme each year, with this year’s theme being “the Role of Leaders in Combatting Racism and Racial Discrimination.” The UN has placed a large impetus on political leaders to use their positions to bolster the fight against racial discrimination. While there have been many successes in the fight against racism, further advancement necessitates a concerted effort across the globe.

Our nation’s troubling relationship with racism predates the American independence. Native Americans, African Americans, Latin Americans, Asian Americans, and certain European American groups have all been victims at some point. Vestiges of these aforementioned processes of oppression unfortunately linger in our society to varying degrees and in a myriad of forms. The mass incarceration of Blacks and Latinos, increased deportation of immigrants for low-level, non-violent infractions, the Trayvon Martin tragedy (and many others who did not gain national notoriety), the Supreme Court’s 2013 overturning of fundamental aspects of the Voting Rights Act in Shleby v. Holder, and recent occurrences of police abuse are just a few contemporary manifestations of our troubled past. 

Fostering Care: How Parents & Kids Can Take a Stand

Topics related to racial discrimination are difficult subject matter to discuss even amongst informed adults, let alone between parents and their children. But, these conversation must be had, and they can be positive. The absolute elimination of racial discrimination may seem an idealistic aspiration, but it would behoove the American people as a whole to strive cooperatively for this utopian existence. 

Today’s youth can be leaders in the fight for open-mindedness, so it is imperative for mothers and fathers to begin engendering tolerance and inclusivity in their kids during their most formative years. While leading by example should not be taken for granted, parents should also develop and maintain an age appropriate, egalitarian dialogue that is both educational and participative. These conversations (for the most part) are not and should not be easy. I am admittedly stepping out of my own comfort zone knowing how complex race-related situations can get and how sensitive many people are about the topic. However, as Jennifer Harvey states in her open letter to white parents, I will attempt to feed you “protein” instead of sugar. 

  1. Prior to any discussions you have with your kids, it is important to honestly and comprehensively address prejudices that you may hold. Life experiences can formalize sentiments and opinions that we may be unaware of, yet are hard to break. Parents should be cognizant of what attitudes and beliefs they project to youth, since their direction is likely to have a lifelong impact on the lives of their kids. 
  2. Once you have confronted and dealt with any personal hang-ups you may have, use your children’s natural inquisitiveness as an opportunity to instill tolerant values in them. When they become toddlers and are able to formulate sentences, skin color differences will likely spike their curiosity if they grow up in homogenous racial environments. Simply acknowledging and explaining that there are differences in people’s skin color in a calm tone can allow your child to view racial differences with a sense of normalcy. 
  3. Avoid espousing “colorblind” rhetoric, which can be a form of racism in and of itself. 
As children become older and are exposed to more influences and experiences, the questions and situations regarding race-related topics will increase in difficulty. Posing hypothetical situations is a somewhat futile exercise, since there are as many possibilities as potential outcomes in a March Madness bracket. Just be aware that kids will be forced to confront increasingly diverse environments as they attend school and make friends. 

Although minorities typically are forced to encounter racial situations at a much earlier age than their counterparts from the dominant culture, all children will inevitably witness racism. When these moments arise, some parents will be tempted to bypass difficult conversations with sugary catchphrases, but this evasion bolsters ignorance in both the parents and their kids. 

Growing up black in predominantly white schools and neighborhoods, predominantly black churches, and mixed raced athletic teams made the subject of race seemingly ubiquitous. However, I believe this upbringing and my parents’ candor in regards to race helped me develop a harmonious yet adaptive personality, which has proved to be extremely valuable in my experiences. I would like to think that they were leaders in fighting racism through these actions, while raising me to do the same.

Resources on How to Discuss and Combat Racism

The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights: Talking to Our Children About Racism & Diversity
Teaching Tolerance, A Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center: Anti-Racism Activity: The Sneaches

Brelan Hillman is Green Rainbow Revolution's rap star Social Media, Blog, and Tech intern. He graduated with a degree in US History from Duke University, while also dabbling in African & African American Studies. Brelan has entrepreneurial and legal professional aspirations, and is hoping to eventually fuse the two.

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